Behind The Curtain: Tithes Part 1 – The Definition

I once heard a friend who told me that he read somewhere about a Christian guy who was given a vision by the Lord. That person claimed that he was given a glimpse of hell and was utterly surprised to see a pastor engulfed by hellfire.

The Christian guy asked the Lord why was that pastor suffering in hell. The Lord said “he failed to give his tithes.”

I’m sure you’ve heard such similar warnings. The consequences can range from not being blessed enough to being cursed to being damned in hell. I’m told that if we are faithful in giving our tithes, our overflowing blessing is assured via express delivery.

Unlocking the blessing for it to rain hard on you is another “faith giving” matter. You just have to give more so you’ll receive more until your “storehouse” will be running over.

There are two major schools of thought about tithing that I know of:

  • Those who believe that Christians are obligated to tithe.
  • Those who believe that tithing is obsolete in the New Testament Church.

Whether you are convinced that tithing is still for today or not is totally up to you.

What I will present here is a simple, no-need-to-be-a-theologian, straight to the point explanation for you to know, think and decide about tithing.

So let us focus our magnifying glass mainly on tithing because it is probably the most favourite subject in most Evangelical/Pentecostal churches apart from God’s love and Jesus saves.

Perhaps, the most controversial of all biblical topics in this prosperity gospel era.

Like they say, the church should learn more about tithes because it is the secret to a new level of overflowing blessings.

So let the new level of understanding begins!

Let us examine:

What is Tithes?

Popular definition: It is a tenth or 10% of your income to be given to the church.

According to Mirriam-Webster (Online):



verb \ˈtīth\
Definition of tithe



  1. transitive verb
  2. 1:  to pay or give a tenth part of especially for the support of the church

  3. 2:  to levy a tithe on

  4. intransitive verb
  5. :  to give a tenth of one’s income as a tithe.

What is Tithes really? 

4643. maaser or maasar or maasrah

Strong’s Concordance
maaser or maasar or maasrah: tenth part, tithe

Original Word: מַעֲשֵׂר
Part of Speech: Noun Masculine
Transliteration: maaser or maasar or maasrah
Phonetic Spelling: (mah-as-ayr’)
Short Definition: tithe

NAS Exhaustive Concordance

Word Origin
from the same as eser
tenth part, tithe
NASB Translation
tenth (4), tenth part (1), tithe (17), tithes (9), tithing (1).

Encyclopedia of Religion, “In the ancient Near East lie the origins of a sacred offering or payment of a tenth part of stated goods or property to the deity. Often given to the king or to the royal temple, the ‘tenth’ was usually approximate, not exact. The practice is known from Mesopotamia,Syria-Palestine, Greece and as far to the west as the Phoenician city of Carthage.”

Westminster Dictionary of the Bible, “A 10th part of one’s income consecrated to God. The separation of a certain proportion of the products of one’s industry or of the spoils of war as tribute to their gods was practiced by various nations of antiquity. The Lydians offered a tithe of their booty (Herod. I, 89). The Phoenicians and Carthaginians sent a tithe annually to the Tyrian Hercules. These tithes might be regular or occasional, voluntary or prescribed by law.”

NOTE: Tithing was never uniquely Jewish as shown above. Other pagan nations were known to pay tithes during (or even before) the time of Abraham. I’ll be showing more examples in another blog post.

Here’s an overview of a much exhaustive definition of tithes according to Dr. William Smith:

Tithe or tenth,the proportion of property devoted to religious uses from very early times. Instances of the use of tithes are found prior to the appointment of the Levitical tithes under the law. In biblical history the two prominent instances are–

  1. Abram presenting the tenth of all his property, or rather of the spoils of his victory, to Melchizedek. ( Genesis 14:20 ;Hebrews 7:2 Hebrews 7:6 )
  2. Jacob, after his vision at Luz, devoting a tenth of all his property to God in case he should return home in safety ( Genesis 28:22 ) The first enactment of the law in respect of tithe is the declaration that the tenth of all produce, as well as of flocks and cattle belongs to Jehovah and must be offered to him that the tithe was to be paid in kind, or, if redeemed, with an addition of one fifth to its value. ( Leviticus 27:30-33 ) This tenth is ordered to be assigned to the Levites as the reward of their service, and it is ordered further that they are themselves to dedicate to the Lord a tenth of these receipts, which is to be devoted to the maintenance of the high priest. ( Numbers 18:21-28 ) This legislation is modified or extended in the book of Deuteronomy, i.e. from thirty-eight to forty years later. Commands are given to the people–
  3. To bring their tithes, together with their votive and other offerings and first-fruits, to the chosen centre of worship, the metropolis, there to be eaten in festive celebration in company with their children their servants and the Levites. ( 12:5-18 )
  4. All the produce of the soil was to be tithed every and these tithes with the firstlings of the flock and herd, were to be eaten in the metropolis.
  5. But in case of distance, permission is given to convert the produce into money, which is to be taken to the appointed place, and there laid out in the purchase of food for a festal celebration, in which the Levite is, by special command, to be included. ( 14:22-27 )
  6. Then follows the direction that at the end of three years all the tithe of that year is to be gathered and laid up “within the gates” and that a festival is to be held of which the stranger, the fatherless and the widow together with the Levite, are to partake. Ibid. ( deuteronomy 5:28 deuteronomy 5:29 )
  7. Lastly it is ordered that after taking the tithe in each third year, “which is the year of tithing,” an exculpatory declaration is to be made by every Israelite that he has done his best to fulfill the divine command, ( 26:12-14 ) From all this we gather– (1) That one tenth of the whole produce of the soil was to be assigned for the maintenance of the Levites. (2) That out of this the Levites were to dedicate a tenth to God for the use of the high priest. (3) That a tithe, in all probability a second tithe, was to be applied to festival purposes. (4) That in every third year, either this festival tithe or a third tenth was to be eaten in company with the poor and the Levites. (These tithes in early times took the place of our modern taxes, us well as of gifts for the support of religious institutions. –ED.)

Bibliography Information

Smith, William, Dr. “Entry for ‘Tithe or tenth,'”. “Smith’s Bible Dictionary”. . 1901.

Next blog post: Tithes Part 2 – Abraham’s Tenth


No, I am not a theologian or a bible scholar. I’m just an ordinary thinking Christian who is yet to see the GOT! Yes, I am part of that 10% who haven’t seen the epic series. “sigh”

11 Now the Berean Jews were of more noble character than those in Thessalonica, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.

Acts 17:11 (NIV)

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